Imaginative and well-considered; should please sci-fi fans as well as readers of historical fiction.

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PANTHER ACROSS THE STARS

A mix of fact and fantasy in which Tecumseh, a 19th-century Shawnee warrior and chief, is aided by three aliens in the battle to protect his lands and people from European incursion.

In his debut novel, Coon merges historical detail, science fiction, literary allusion, and odd, almost poetic lines that lend a heroic tone: “They were certain the Great Spirit itself had come down among the Shawnee, housed within the body of Gahnoque so strange.” As a child, Tecumseh witnesses a buck rescue a doe and its fawns from a pack of wolves, losing its own life in the process. His father, Puckshinwa (eventually murdered by whites), tells him the deer was touched by the Great Spirit. Later, a black panther emerges from the forest to rub against Tecumseh’s hand. These two events form the core of Coon’s thematic metaphors: self-sacrifice and the connection of Tecumseh (who becomes known as “Panther Across the Sky”) to cats. Despite his hatred of whites since his father’s death, Tecumseh carries on a lifelong friendship with settler John Sackett, whom he sees as a second father, and prevents his childhood nemesis and future traitor Sakdayga from killing Sackett. After Tecumseh meets the panther, an alien spacecraft crashes on Shawnee land. The warrior rescues the occupants, who have eyes like panthers and striped black fur. With the aliens’ help, the Shawnee initially score a number of victories against the invaders, seemingly forcing them into negotiations. Sadly, even with the aid of extraterrestrials in possession of some rather impressive weapons and battle skills, like all Native American sagas, lies and treachery eventually prevail. Coon skillfully walks a fine line between historical facts and speculative fiction, weaving a fascinating tale filled with realistic, empathetic characters.

Imaginative and well-considered; should please sci-fi fans as well as readers of historical fiction.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9995758-1-9

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Fallen Leaf Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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